Off-Page SEO

Link Scheme

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Apr 19, 2023

Link Scheme

What is a Link Scheme?

A link scheme - also called link spam - refers to any technique or practice that is used to manipulate the number or quality of links pointing to a website.

The purpose is to make a site seem more popular than it really is. More links make a site look like a top authority to search engines like Google.

Link schemes are considered a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can result in penalties or even a complete ban.

Types of Link Schemes

Here are some common types of link schemes:

  • Paid links: This refers to the practice of buying links from other websites in exchange for money. Google prohibits buying links to manipulate search rankings. It violates their rules because those links don't show real website popularity.

  • Link exchanges: Some websites make deals to link to each other, with the sole purpose of trying to boost their rankings. This practice of exchanging links only to manipulate algorithms violates Google's rules.

  • Guest post links: Some websites let other sites contribute blog posts or articles. In exchange, the articles include a link back to the guest site. This by itself can be fine. But sometimes the guest articles are low-quality. They only exist to get that backlink. The goal is to unfairly boost the guest site's rankings. Google has rules against this. All links and content should be useful for visitors - not just tactics to manipulate search results.

  • Link farms: A link farm is a website or a collection of websites that are created for the sole purpose of linking to each other to manipulate rankings. Sometimes link farms also sell links. If caught, Google will penalize the link farm network and any sites buying links from it.

  • Automated link building: This refers to the use of automated software or bots to generate links. The links get generated and published across the web without any human review. The goal is to rapidly build links to make a site seem popular. But the links are artificial and manipulated.

Why Are Link Schemes Bad?

Link schemes are considered bad because they violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines, which are designed to ensure that search results are relevant, useful, and trustworthy for users.

Here are some of the reasons why link schemes are considered bad:

  1. Link schemes break Google's rules. They try to unfairly manipulate search rankings instead of earning links by creating high-quality content.

  2. They make lower-quality sites rank higher than better sites. This fills search results with content that is less useful, accurate or trustworthy.

  3. Sites can get major penalties from Google for using link schemes, hurting their traffic and revenues.

  4. Link schemes are often focused on generating links for the sake of improving search rankings, rather than creating value for users. This can lead to a poor user experience which is not good.

How to Spot a Link Scheme?

Spotting link schemes can be tricky, but there are some warning signs:

Unnatural link patterns: If a website has an unusually high number of links pointing to it, or if the links are all from low-quality websites, this may be a sign of a link scheme.

Additionally, if the links are all using the same anchor text, this can also be a red flag.

Paid links: If a website is selling links, this is a clear indication of a link scheme. Be wary of any website that openly advertises links for sale.

Link exchanges: Link exchanges are another warning sign of schemes. If a website has a ton of outbound links on its pages, that may mean it's exchanging links left and right.

Low-quality content: One sign of a potential link scheme is a website filled with low-quality content. This junk content tends to exist solely for the purpose of generating links, not to help readers.

Be aware of websites that publish a lot of guest posts or articles that are not relevant to their niche or audience.

Unnatural growth of backlinks: A clear warning sign of link schemes is when a website's backlinks skyrocket over a short timeframe. Backlinks should grow naturally over time as a website gains authority and popularity.

If you suspect a link scheme, avoid links from that site. You can also report suspicious activity directly to Google.

How to Avoid Link Schemes?

Avoiding link schemes is essential to maintain good standing with search engines. Here are some tips to help you avoid it:

Focus on creating high-quality content

Rather than using link schemes to try and cheat the system, put your effort into publishing high-quality content. Useful, engaging articles and reports that people genuinely want to read and recommend.

Create resources that clearly help or educate your readers. Share insights they find valuable. Break down complex topics and provide unique data.

Build relationships with other websites

Instead of link schemes, try making connections with websites similar to yours. Develop genuine relationships that help both sites.

The goal is to collaborate on useful resources that both audiences will appreciate. Any links should occur naturally from the partnership - not be the main purpose.

Avoid buying links or participating in link exchanges

Buying or selling links specifically to manipulate search rankings breaks Google's rules. Those types of link schemes can lead to penalties, including losing your site's spot in results.

Instead, aim to earn links naturally by focusing on creating truly helpful content.

However, Google allows buying and selling links on the internet for advertising and sponsorship, as long as they are labelled with the "rel=nofollow" or "rel=sponsored" attribute in the HTML code. This informs search engines that the links are paid or sponsored.

Google avoid buying links

Monitor your backlink profile

You should check all the links pointing to your website regularly. Look for sketchy backlinks from spammy or low-quality sites. Disavow any suspicious links you find.

Be patient

Earning genuine backlinks through strong content and relationships requires patience. It's tempting to use link schemes for fast results, but that path leads to penalties.

Instead of chasing shortcuts, play the long game:

  • Make a website readers truly want to visit and recommend

  • Provide resources other sites are excited to reference

  • Collaborate with reputable sites to serve your shared audience

When you add consistent value, relevant links will gradually accumulate from reputable sites.


Any practice that exists solely to manipulate search engine rankings is considered a link scheme and should be avoided to maintain good standing with search engines.

Instead, focus on creating high-quality content and building relationships with other websites through natural link-building practices.

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